Beyond Awake

For the sake of simplicity, let’s define two degrees of awareness, asleep and awake. When you’re asleep, you aren’t aware of much. When you’re awake, you’re aware of your environment and yourself. What if there was a degree higher than the state of being awake?

That degree is called meta-consciousness or metacognition. When you reach the level of meta-consciousness, you become aware of your consciousness, your thought and emotional patterns.

There’s nothing esoteric about meta-consciousness, it’s a highly practical concept that you can use in your daily life.

Our Biases and Fallacies

Our biases and fallacies are reported extensively. Yet, most of us aren’t aware of them. In various cases, we can correct our cognitive and behavioral errors just by learning about them.

If you want to learn more about biases and fallacies, I recommend the book You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney. It’s comprehensive and easy to read.

One of our instincts is our urge to impact our environment. Yet, most of us aren’t aware of that urge and fall prey to it. That included me until I heard about it in the audiobook Outsmart Yourself by Peter M. Vishton.

We can improve our thinking and emotional patterns and our behavior just by learning about our biases, fallacies, and instincts. But there is a level beyond that. On that level, we become aware of our thinking and emotional patterns.

Becoming Aware of Our Thinking and Emotional Patterns

Suppose that you want to give up a bad habit. You can use sheer willpower to resist the cravings when they come up, but you have an alternative. You can observe your cognitive patterns and explore what causes the cravings in the first place. You can either eliminate the triggers in the first place or find more constructive ways of handling them.

Suppose that you want to eliminate drinking too much coffee. You realize that your coffee machine acts as a trigger. You can simply eliminate that trigger by getting rid of your coffee machine. However, you can’t do that at your job because other people drink coffee too.

In that case, you might want to observe your cognitive patterns. What is triggering you to drinking coffee? You might realize that every time you feel stressed, you feel the urge to drink another cup of coffee.

When you take one more step backward, you realize that you feel stressed when you have to deal with your colleagues. Through self-observation, you realize that the stress of dealing with your colleagues is triggering you to drink coffee.

Breaking Dysfunctional Patterns

Now, that you’re aware of your cognitive and behavioral patterns, you can expect when to feel stressed and when to feel the urge to drink a cup of coffee. You anticipate both conditions in advance and prepare for them.

You can find alternative ways of dealing with stress such as deep breathing and drinking a glass of water. You can use those relaxation methods when you’re dealing with your colleagues.

Becoming Aware of Subtle Patterns

Some of our cognitive and behavioral patterns aren’t as obvious as the example above. They might be obvious to others, but being aware of our own patterns is much more difficult. It’s like a fish becoming aware of water.

There are two behavioral patterns that I became aware of recently. The first one is apathy and giving up, and the second one is being reactional and making hostile comments. When I observed my cognitive patterns behind both behavioral patterns, I realized that they both stemmed from anger.

When I get angry, I either express it or suppress it. When I suppress it, I fall down to the level of apathy and give up. When I express it, I make hostile comments. Needless to say, neither method is pragmatic.

Moreover, acting upon them reinforces them in my psyche. Every time I act on them, I increase my tendency to use the same dysfunctional patterns next time. The behavior becomes even more automatic. It is ingrained deeper in my psyche.

Becoming Aware of Repressed Emotions

My patterns of expression and suppression were so deeply ingrained in my psyche that they happened almost in light speed. I wasn’t even aware of feeling angry before I react or give up. It required some study and self-observation until I could recognize these patterns in me.

Now, when I’m about the give up or make hostile comments, I stop myself and acknowledge the anger underneath those behaviors. I use the letting go method on the anger, while I look for a constructive behavior and do my best to act on it.

In letting go, you don’t push through with force. You tap into your power by releasing the breaks. When you release your breaks, your inner power drives you.

Conclusion

Studying psychology is definitely interesting, but there is something even more interesting, which is recognizing your own cognitive and behavioral patterns for the first time after 39 years of existence.

I highly recommend that you learn more about psychology, observe your psyche, and apply what you have learned to your own cognitive and behavioral patterns. Your results in life will justify the time and energy that you invest in it.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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